In my few years of travel here and there, I have noticed one thing: tourists, although appreciated for revenue, can be generally annoying to locals. I experienced this first-hand one day when I was shopping in Camden Town, London. I had my sights set on an adorable orange-trim camel coat one of the vendors was selling. I looked at my mom, who was next to me, and said, “Look! This jacket is absolutely gorgeous!” and at that moment a very peeved, very local man looked around at me and shot me the grossest, meanest look, and I knew. I knew my Texan voice was too loud and too excited for this London environment. Ever since then I have made it a point to look as normal as possible. When people don’t know you’re a tourist, you are treated different – sometimes you can even be let in on local secrets.
Here are ten ways you can look as convincingly casual as a local while on vacation!
- Research the Fashion of the Area.
Especially if you’re jumping the border or flying over the ocean. As an American, I know that most of Europe does not dress the way I would expect another American to! Every country has little distinct things about them, and fashion is one of them. For example, when you’re packing for Paris, pack some dark colors and maybe some flats.
- Typically stray from things you know can stereotypical of your country.
As an American, I notice Americans are typically perceived as loud. Some cultures see loudness as being rude, so I try to calm myself down if I notice myself upping my volume. Try to notice cultural norms and reciprocate to your comfort level!
- Try local food!
This one is easy. Try to go to restaurants you see locals at. Yes, of course, restaurants marketed to tourists will always be quick and easy and close to hotels, but try to seek out places you don’t notice are constantly around tourist areas. You may even find some great new food!
- Try not to travel in a pack.
Sometimes I’ll be sitting in a restaurant in my hometown and see a bus park and unload a group of 30 people taking a tour of Fort Worth. If you want to look local, travel in small groups.
- Know basic greetings in the language of where you are planning to travel.
Little things like “hello”, “thank you”, and “excuse me” are things I always try to familiarize myself with when I go to non-English-speaking countries. If you don’t say a complicated word completely right, don’t worry! If they notice you’re a tourist taking an interest in their language, they may be impressed. Keep in mind: some people will appreciate your effort, but others may be aggravated if you butcher the pronunciation too much!
- Don’t buy from street vendors.
Please, do not buy from street vendors unless you are in a farmer’s market or a pop-up shop. Street vendors are solely there to rip people off who don’t know any better. I promise, that little Eiffel tower is in the store next door the guy shouting at you – and quite cheaper, too!
- Tourist traps are sometimes cool, sometimes they are not.
Research your stops! Make sure you want to go somewhere that is advertised as a tourist attraction. They can be worth your time, but they can also waste time and suck money.
- Pick up some common knowledge about where you are.
Chat up your cab driver, ask him about things that may have recently gone on in the area you’re visiting. Ask your waitress what she does around the island for fun – and do it! As you come into contact with more and more people, you’ll realize you know more and can hold conversation with locals while going to places the average tourist hasn’t.
- Go to the local grocery stores, not the “big” ones.
In America, there is basically a Walmart at every street corner. Try to go to a farmer’s market or a local grocery chain to buy groceries. You’ll feel local while discovering the produce of the area and while shopping with people from where you are vacationing.
- Do some activities you could potentially do at home.
I’m not saying to waste your budget going to the laundromat or buying TP for your hotel room/airbnb find. If a new movie you want to see is out while you’re on vacation, try seeing it there! You’ll have the memory of seeing that movie in a fun, new place forever. I saw Star Wars while in Hawaii – it was so crazy to see how different Kauai’s movie theaters are. I loved it!
That’s my list! I know some points were internationally focused, but others were styled to fit even the most casual of staycations. I hope this helps you blend in as much as you want! Remember that sometimes it can be good to be a tourist. It is okay to go somewhere and take a tour of something cool! Don’t feel like you’re annoying everyone simply by taking a picture or by enjoying a culture that isn’t like your own. Happy travels!